Types of dahlias flowers

Dahlia Plant Types: What Are The Different Varieties Of Dahlia

There are 42 species of dahlia but innumerable hybrids. These Mexican flowering bushes are popular for their diversity of size and form. Dahlias are classed by their flower type and size. There still may be uncountable hybrids and cultivars within each class but at least it helps group them in an organized system. There are 6 dahlia varieties and 7 form classes. Varieties of dahlia are divided by size and classes by flower shape. Read on to learn more.

Dahlia Plant Types

If you have ever been to a county fair, one of the biggest attractions is often the dahlia building. Here you can see a vast array of dahlia plant types, represented by their flowers. Serious collectors and hobbyists breed specific forms in an attempt to outdo each other on size and spectacle. The results are an ocean of color with amazing forms across the area.

The different types of dahlia are astounding and mind numbing in their excess. The only way even expert growers can keep them all straight is by ordering the types of dahlia flowers into groups.

The actual appearance of a dahlia plant is very similar among species. Most are small to large bushes with deeply cut leaves that stem from tubers. Plants require sun, well-drained soil, plenty of water and good air circulation. Once you start trying to tell the difference between the species and hybrids, all other similarities become more vague.

Dahlia varieties are divided into flower form classes. These indicate the shape of the flower and occasionally the character of the petals. The other method of separating the varieties of dahlia is by delineating by flower size. This method is a quick and fairly unsophisticated way to tell a class just by eyeballing the blooms.

Flower Form Classes

This way of dividing the species is poetic and requires observation.

  • Decorative types may be informal or formal and bear blooms thick with petals that are usually flat but may be rolled.
  • Pompoms and balls are just what they sound like. Round ball-shaped flowers with double flat spirally arranged petals. The ray petals are blunt and may be quill-like.
  • Cactus types of dahlia flowers are one of the showiest. These blooms have incurved or rolled petals that are nearly straight. The effect is almost of a starburst.
  • A broad class is the singles, semi-doubles, colarettes and anemones. Each has a star-like appearance with flat petals and a distinctive disc.
  • Orchid and peony are open centered flowers with one or more rows of ray flowers around a disc.
  • Blooms with creased petals are in the stellar class and those with a closed center and flat, broad rows of ray florets are in the waterlily designation.

Flower Size Classification

Another way to order the different types of dahlia is by using their bloom sizes.

  • The biggest flowers are in the giant category and may get nearly 10 inches in diameter.
  • The large flowered category gets just under this size at 8 inches.
  • Medium flowered varieties are just under 8 inches while small flowered varieties may one grow 4 inches in width.
  • There are also miniature at 1 ½ to 4 inches and pompoms, which grow less than 1 ½ inch in diameter.

Each of these is also divided into the cactus, colarette or anemone, orchid, waterlily, stellar and ball distinctions. In this way, the explosion of hybrids can be set into their individual class for an easier understanding of their origins and parent. This becomes extremely important for growers and those competing in breeding competitions.

For those of us that simply enjoy the magnificent flowers, it is a fun way to describe some of the original forms of the amazing dahlia.

It’s the year of the dahlia. These native Mexican flowers have topped every wedding trend list of 2019 — their eclectic textures and vivid colors have captured brides and event planners all over the world. Texture and personalization are central themes in the wedding industry this year, making the versatile dahlia a perfect addition to any arrangement.

There are over 42 types of dahlias and innumerable hybrids. These exotic beauties range in size, color and texture. Due to their wild colors and interesting shapes, dahlias make great additions to gardens, bouquets and arrangements. These flowers typically bloom throughout the summer and fall, making them the perfect perennial plant to bring some color to your garden in the warm months.

Since there are thousands of dahlias, they are each classified under one of these 11 categories. Once you learn about all the different types of dahlias, you will be able to identify this beautiful bloom and you just might discover your new favorite flower.

Cactus and Semi-Cactus Dahlias

Cactus dahlias are by far the most dramatic of all dahlias. These blooms are double-flowering with long, rolled petals, giving them a spiky look. These types of dahlias feature a variety of colors and can range from miniature flowers to giant blooms. Cactus types are classified as incurved cactus, straight cactus and semi-cactus. Incurved cactus types have petals that are completely rolled with the tips curving toward the center of the flower. Semi-cactus blooms feature petals that are only half rolled and are flat at the base. Finally, straight cactus have straight petals that are rolled for one-half of their length.

Some popular cactus and semi-cactus dahlias include:

  • Dahlia ‘Doris Day’
  • Dahlia ‘Frigoulet’
  • Dahlia ‘Pianella’

Decorative Dahlias

This is the largest category of dahlias and offers a wide variety of colors and shapes. Unlike the cactus types, decorative dahlias have broad and flat petals. These versatile blooms are double-flowering and they are either classified as formal or informal. Informal decorative dahlias have petals that are evenly and regularly placed while informal types have flat petals that are slightly rolled at the tip and are placed irregularly.

Some popular decorative dahlias include:

  • Dahlia ‘Arabian Night’
  • Dahlia ‘Rothesay Reveller’
  • Dahlia ‘Kelvin Floodlight’

Single Dahlias

Single dahlias feature a row of overlapping petals that are flat or slightly cupped. The uniform petals on single dahlias can be rounded or pointed. These types of dahlias are single-flowering and can be over two inches in diameter. Fun fact: pollinators are particularly attracted to these flowers!

Some popular single dahlias include:

  • Dahlia ‘Magenta Star’
  • Dahlia ‘Mystic Illusion’
  • Dahlia ‘Waltzing Mathilda’

Mignon Dahlias

Mignon dahlias are similar to single dahlias and are sometimes even categorized together. The main differences are mignon dahlias tend to be under two inches in diameter and feature petals with round tips. The daisy-like flowers bloom in a variety of vivid colors, often around a contrasting center.

Some popular mignon dahlias include:

  • Dahlia ‘Scura’
  • Dahlia ‘G.F. Hemerik’
  • Dahlia ‘Sunshine’

Pompon Dahlias

Pompon dahlias are generally small double-flowering blooms with flat petals arranged in a spiral. They are almost perfectly round and feature tightly rolled, quill-like petals. These delicate blooms reach a maximum of two inches in diameter.

Some popular pompon dahlias include:

  • Dahlia ‘Moor Place’
  • Dahlia ‘Plum Surprise’
  • Dahlia ‘Franz Kafka’

Ball Dahlias

Ball dahlias are either shaped like a ball or a slightly flattened sphere. The petals of ball dahlias can be blunt, rounded or indented and are usually displayed in a spiral arrangement. Unlike pompon dahlias, these blooms often grow larger than two inches in diameter.

Some popular ball dahlias include:

  • Dahlia ‘Aurora’s Kiss’
  • Dahlia ‘Jomanda’
  • Dahlia ‘Cornell’

Anemone Dahlias

Anemone dahlias have an outer ring of flat petals surrounding a dense group of long and tubular petals. These big blooms are a popular choice for bouquets. They make great cut flowers and can introduce vivid colors and texture to any arrangement. Fun fact: these flowers can vary from two to four feet tall!

Some popular anemone dahlias include:

  • Dahlia ‘Purpinka’
  • Dahlia ‘Totally Tangerine
  • Dahlia ‘Boogie Woogie’

Collarette Dahlias

Like anemone dahlias, collarette types feature large flat petals that surround a ring of shorter petals. These smaller petals are often a different color, forming a collar in the middle of the bloom. The open flower structure of this bloom makes it attractive to pollinators, so it’s the perfect addition to any garden!

Some popular collarette dahlias include:

  • Dahlia ‘Teesbrooke Audrey’
  • Dahlia ‘Pooh’
  • Dahlia ‘Night Butterfly’

Peony Dahlias

Peony dahlias are beautiful single-flowering blooms that have open centers. The center is surrounded by two or more rows of large petals. These petals are often irregularly formed, giving this unique bloom a fluffy look. This textured look makes it an interesting addition to any bouquet or arrangement.

Some popular peony dahlias include:

  • Dahlia ‘Fascination’
  • Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’
  • Dahlia ‘Bishop of Oxford’

Orchid Dahlias

Like peony dahlias, orchid dahlias are also single-flowering and feature an open center. Orchid dahlias are either classified as a single orchid or a double orchid. Single orchid dahlias feature one row of petals and double orchids have two rows of petals that hide the center of the flower. Though the name of this type suggests a similarity to the orchid flower, these types of dahlias bear little resemblance.

Some popular orchid dahlias include:

  • Dahlia ‘Honka Red’
  • Dahlia ‘Fragile’
  • Dahlia ‘Honka Surprise

Waterlily Dahlias

Unlike orchid dahlias, waterlily dahlias resemble their namesake, the water lily flower. They have breathtaking double blooms made up of broad and sparse petals. These flowers are extremely eye-catching due to their striking color and pattern.

Some popular waterlily dahlias include:

  • Dahlia ‘Caballero’
  • Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’
  • Dahlia ‘Pearl of Heemstede’

Now that you know the differences between all the dahlia flowers, you get to discover which types are your favorite! No matter what you choose, these beautiful flowers will look stunning in any bouquet or centerpiece. Whether you decorate with dahlias or plant them in your flower bed, these exotic flowers are sure to bring life to your event, home or garden.


Gardenia | Gardening Know How | Gardener’s World | Swan Island Dahlias

Unabashedly flamboyant and dazzlingly vibrant, dahlias are some of the most loved flowering plants of spring and summer. There are over 57,000 recognized cultivars, all descendants of 30 original dahlia species!

With all that diversity, classifying dahlias can be a challenge – but this list is a good place to start!

Single – Single dahlias consist of a central disc surrounded by a single row of flat or slightly curved florets, arranged uniformly, with no gaps in the arrangement. Most flowers are over 2” in diameter, with up to 3 rows of bright orange or yellow pollen that endears them to bees, butterflies and other pollinators. They’re excellent for small sized gardens and containers.

Waterlily – These are fully double blooms with a striking resemblance to waterlily flowers. The ray florets are somewhat sparse in the rows, either flat or slightly curved along their length which makes the flower appear shallower than other dahlias. They’re great as cut flowers – a stunning sight in vases or afloat in a shallow bowl of water.

Collarette – Collarettes are marked by a collarlike circle of short florets close to the center. There’s an outer ring with a single row of larger, flat or curved, often overlapping florets. The open flower structure offers easy access to butterflies, bees and other pollinating insects. A wonderful addition to butterfly and cutting gardens!

Anemone – This beautiful single flower really does remind us of the popular Greek windflower, anemone. The center is composed of a dense group of elongated tubes. There can be one or more rows of flat florets encircling the center in a wreathlike arrangement. Anemone dahlias are surefire head-turners in containers and vases, and excellent for floral arrangements.

Ball – Ball dahlias are characterized by their round, ball-like flower form. The small, fully double flowers feature a seemingly infinite number of incurved ray florets in a flawless spiral arrangement around the center. Ball dahlias look stunning in vases and are priceless in floral arrangements.

Pompom – Pompoms, much like ball dahlias, are full double flowers and almost perfectly round. The petals are curved inwards and are packed tightly in the rows. The flowers are smaller than ball dahlias, but are equally as attractive in vases and cut flower arrangements. They’re extremely popular in bouquets, particularly in fashionable bridal bouquets!

Cactus – The unusual, fully double flowers of cactus dahlias have pointed tubular petals that give them a spectacular starburst look! The flowers come in breathtaking color combinations. They look stunning growing in small groups or as a specimen. Owing to the unique flower form, cactus dahlias have the ability to withstand inclement weather, including strong winds and heavy downpours.

Decorative – This group consists of perhaps that most well known of all dahlias—the Dinnerplates! The big, showy fully double flower can be up to 12” across in length, and feature broad, flat-tipped petals arranged in either formal (petals appearing evenly) or informal (petals appearing irregularly) arrangements. Formal decorative dahlias are ideal for vases while informal dahlias look ravishing in borders and containers.

Peony – These fluffy, fully double flowers have the classic peony look! The center is surrounded by multiple rings of ray florets that are either flat or curved inwards at their base. Peony-flowered dahlias are fast growing plants popular for garden borders. Their open flower form makes them a magnet for a variety of pollinators, including bees and butterflies.

Mignon – Mignon are small daisy-like flowers that can be single or semi-double. The blooms feature a single row of round-tipped ray florets and have one or two rows of pollen. These dainty flowers come in vibrant tones and are great for window boxes, containers and patio pots.

Topmix – Topmix dahlias are very similar to the Mignons, only they are lower growing and have a larger number of blooms. These are quintessential bedding plants, a superb choice for borders and containers and a magnet for bees and butterflies!

Shop All Dahlias

Dahlia pinnata
(garden dahlia)

List of Pests

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Major host of:

Choanephora cucurbitarum (Choanephora fruit rot); Chrysodeixis eriosoma (green looper caterpillar); Dahlia mosaic virus; Dickeya dianthicola (slow wilt of Dianthus and potato); Pseudomonas syringae pv. syringae (bacterial canker or blast (stone and pome fruits)); Rhodococcus fascians (fasciation: leafy gall); Scirtothrips dorsalis (chilli thrips)

Minor host of:

Aleurodicus dispersus (whitefly); Dickeya chrysanthemi (bacterial wilt of chrysanthemum and other ornamentals); Didymella ligulicola (ray (flower) blight of chrysanthemum); Golovinomyces cichoracearum (powdery mildew); Liriomyza sativae (vegetable leaf miner); Paracoccus marginatus (papaya mealybug); Pseudomonas marginalis pv. marginalis (lettuce marginal leaf blight); Rhizobium radiobacter (crown gall); Rhizobium rhizogenes (gall); Spodoptera frugiperda (fall armyworm); Verticillium dahliae (verticillium wilt)

Associated with (not a host):

Alternaria alternata (alternaria leaf spot); Meloidogyne arenaria (peanut root-knot nematode)

Host of (source – data mining):

Alternaria tenuissima (nailhead spot of tomato); Gibberella intricans (damping-off of safflower); Tetranychus urticae (two-spotted spider mite)

Species Dahlias

Dahlias are among the most beloved flowers in our gardens. Not only do they come in an astounding range of forms and colors, their blooming period is one of the longest: they start blooming in June and continue in flower until first frost. That longevity – and the dahlia’s ease of care – have given the dahlia the accolades it so richly deserves. What is notable here is the fact that all these hybridized varieties were developed primarily from one or two wild species during the past 200 years. The genetic potential of dahlias appears to be simply inexhaustible.

Originating from within several regions of Mexico, the dahlia belongs to the botanical order of Asterales. Its family is that of the widely-distributed composite flower (Asteraceae) that includes some close relatives, such as cosmos and bidens. The taxonomy, or classification system, of the genus dahlia once was quite complex. More than 100 species names had been attributed to dahlias, as botanists and garden enthusiasts sought to establish the plant’s distinctive characteristics. This led to considerable confusion in nomenclature and delayed proper horticultural collection.

In the course of the past half-century, some order was instituted so that wild species could be separated from hybrids. Beginning with the seminal taxonomy undertaken by American botanist E. E. Sherff, other American academicians, foremost among them Prof. Paul D. Sorensen and more recently Prof. Dayle E. Saar, have systematized the taxonomy along strictly botanical principles. Danish professors Hans V. Hansen and J. P. Hjerting also made valuable contributions to these efforts. And more recently, teams of Mexican botanists are finding new species in remote areas of the country.

We now have 42 recognized species dahlias, plus several sub-species. Following Prof. Sorensen’s systematic treatment, the genus is separate into four sections, largely along lines of plant habit. The Pseudodendron Section includes what we know as tree dahlias. The Entemophyllon Section covers short-growing species with finely divided leaves. The largest group of dahlias is Section Dahlia; it includes not only the parent of all hybridized dahlias – namely D. coccinea – but a great many taxa that have not yet been grown extensively elsewhere. And since there always is at least one in every crowd that doesn’t fit the others, Section Epiphytum holds D. macdougallii, a rare epiphytic vining dahlia growing in southernmost Mexico and in Guatemala.

The following pages list all known species and some general facts for each, together (where available) with authoritative photos of their growth habit and bloom. As more information becomes available, we will amend the pages, correct any errors, and encourage you to seek sources of species dahlias for your garden or hybridization efforts.

We are indebted to Dr. Keith Hammett of Auckland, New Zealand, whose works and scientific approach proved invaluable in that he linked the academic community with the large contingent of dahlia growers and organizations throughout the world.

List of Dahlias Species with links to photos.

Dahlia Types

The rich variety of their flower colors, shapes and sizes added to their extensive blooming season, have turned dahlias into a popular addition to our landscapes. There are thousands of varieties of dahlias (!!!) and they are all classified by the shape, size and color of their flowers.

Flowers can be as small as 2 inches in diameter or up to one foot. They offer an impressive range of colors such as pink, purple, red, scarlet, orange, yellow, white and can be stripped or tipped with another color. They can be single-flowering (orchid-flowering, anemone and collarettes) or double flowering (cactus, semi-cactus, formal or informal decorative dahlias, ball and pompons).

Their wide height range can start as low as 12 inches and go up to 6 feet.

They thrive in full sun, prefer well-drained, sandy soils although they can grow nicely in heavy clay soils – but adding some sand or peat moss would be a good idea. Tender bulbs, they are hardy to USDA Zone 8 where they can be cut back and left in the ground to overwinter. In colder areas, they will have to be lifted after the first harsh frost and stored over the winter.

Cactus and Semi Cactus Dahlias

Both types have double flowers with long pointed ray petals that revolute or roll back along half their length, giving the flowers a spiky look. Most cultivars reach a height of more than 40 inches.

Cactus Dahlias

Dahlia ‘Alfred Grille’

Dahlia ‘Dutch Explosion’

Dahlia ‘Karma Bon Bini’

Semi Cactus Dahlias

Dahlia ‘Henriette’

Dahlia ‘Frigoulet’

Dahlia ‘Surprise’

See all Cactus Dahlias

These are double dahlias with broad, flat-tipped petals that are sometimes wavy. The flowers are normally large and the plants easily top 40 inches tall, though there are even taller varieties. They can be formal with flat petals evenly and regularly placed throughout the flowers, or informal with generally flat petals, sometimes slightly rolled at the tips, but with irregular arrangement of formation.

Dahlia ‘Melody Dora’

Dahlia ‘April Dawn’

Dahlia ‘David Howard’

See all Decorative Dahlias

Pompon and Ball Dahlias

Pompon and Ball Dahlias feature relatively small, fully double, globe-shaped flowers with petals blunt or slightly rounded at their tips. How not to marvel at the perfect petal arrangement of these dahlias? They display an infinite swirl of florets with fold upon fold of incredibly flawless petals.

Dahlia ‘Jan Van Schaffelaar’

Dahlia ‘Wizard of Oz’

Dahlia ‘Jowey Winnie’

See all Pompon and Ball Dahlias

Anemone-Flowered and Collarette Dahlias

Anemone Dahlias feature an outer ring of flat ray petals arranged in a wreath and surrounding masses of tiny, elongated disk florets which form an intriguing floral pincushion. Collarette Dahlias are small to medium flowers with large flat ray petals surrounding an open center. Within the ray and surrounding the center is a wreath of shorter petals, often of a different color: this forms the “collar.”

Dahlia ‘Garden Show’

Dahlia ‘The Phantom’

Dahlia ‘Night Butterfly’

See all Anemone and Collarette Dahlias

Mignon and Single Dahlias

Single Dahlias feature blooms with a single row of flat or slightly cupped ray florets arranged in a flat plane, uniformly overlapping, preferably in the same direction with no gaps. The disc flowers may have up to three rows of bright yellow or orange pollen and the blooms are over two inches in diameter (5 cm). Pollinators love these Single-Flowered Dahlias! If you want to provide something special for bees, butterflies or other pollinating insects still active in late summer of fall, choose a Single Dahlia!

Mignon Dahlias possess the same formation as Single Dahlias except they have round ray floret tips, their disc flowers have no more than two rows of pollen and their blooms are under two inches in diameter. Perfect for small gardens or container display, Single Dahlias include the highly prized Dark-Leaved Dahlias with their masses of stunning flower colors which contrast strikingly with their deep mahogany to black foliage. Effect in the garden guaranteed!

Dahlia HS ‘First Love’

Dahlia ‘Waltzing Mathilda’

Dahlia ‘Moonfire’

See all Mignon and Single Dahlias

Peony-Flowered and Orchid Dahlias

Peony Dahlias are open centered flowers with two or more rows of petals surrounding a disc. For many years the most popular Peony-flowered dahlia was a cultivar called D. ‘Bishop Llandaff’, an heirloom variety that dates back to 1927. It has open deep-red flowers with nearly black, mahogany foliage.
Orchid Dahlias are also open centered flowers with one ray of florets surrounding a disc (Single Orchid) or a fully double bloom showing no disc (Double Orchid). The florets involute for two-thirds or more of their length.

Orchid Dahlia ‘Honka Surprise’

Double Orchid Dahlia ‘Pink Giraffe’

Peony Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’

See all Peony and Orchid Dahlias

Miscellaneous Dahlias

This diverse group includes all varieties that do not fall into one of the above groups.

  • Laciniated or fimbriated Dahlias present petals that are split at the end into two or more divisions.
  • Stellar Dahlias present decorative shaped flowers with petals being creased causing them to be narrow and involute with a slight recurve to the stem.
  • Waterlily Dahlias have fully double blooms characterized by broad and generally sparse ray florets, which are straight or slightly involute along their length giving the flower a shallow appearance.
  • Dinner Plate Dahlias exhibit huge and magnificent blooms. They are unbelievably large – up to 12 in. across (30 cm) – and will bloom continuously from July until the first touch of frost. This is not an official classification, in fact, these robust dahlias are registered under several different classifications.

Dahlia ‘Peach and Cream’

WaterLily ‘Gerrie Hoek’

Dinnerplate Dahlia ‘Seattle’

Types of Dahlia

When considering the types of dahlia, it is worth remembering that all of today’s variants are descended from an original 30 species. There are now in excess of 57,000 recognised dahlia cultivars worldwide and this number continues to grow through the efforts of gardeners and enthusiasts of this incredible flower.

Most people accept that there are 9 distinct types of dahlia which all have clearly defined characteristics. There are also one or two other types of dahlia that are just classified informally as they may have features from various groups.

The types of dahlia are as follows

Single – the flower has a central disc with a ring of petals encircling it. The petals may be rounded or pointed.

Waterlily – this type has curved, slightly curved or flat petals and is very shallow in depth compared with other dahlias.

Collerette – large petals form an outer circle around a central disc. The collar term comes from a smaller circle of much smaller petals closer to the centre.

Anemone – The centre comprises of dense elongated tubes. The outer parts have one or more rings of flatter petals.

Pompon – These resemble perfect spheres and are made up entirely from petals that are curved inwards.

Ball – these are larger than pompons and have a spiral arrangement of incurved petals.

Semi-cactus – these have very pointed petals, almost spiky in appearance.

Cactus – similar to semi-cactus, but with narrower petals.

Decorative – broad petals with no central disc showing.

Miscellaneous – orchid and peony types are classified as miscellaneous.

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